Today is National Trails Day and I’m Celebrating the Pathmakers of Acadia National Park

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Jun 042011

National Trails Day, started in 1993, encourages us to get out and discover America’s walking and hiking trails.  It is also a great opportunity to celebrate those who have contributed to the development and awareness of these trails.  My favorites are in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

The island’s first trailmakers were the Wabenaki Indians who, prior to the European explorers and settlers from Massachusetts in the 1760s, forged carry trails to transport their canoes between bodies of water.  One such trail today is the Jordan Pond Carry Trail between Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake.  As with all carry trails, it is the shortest, flattest route between ponds.  We’ve found it to be a great way to end a circuit that begins at Bubble Rock parking area, ascends up to North Bubble past Bubble Rock, heads north to Conners Nubble, and runs along Eagle Lake.

My next shout-out goes to Clara Barnes Martin, who in 1867 wrote the first trail guide for what was to become Acadia National Park.  Her “little book,” she said, served the double purpose of a guidebook at the island and “at home in wintry days a souvenir of pleasant summer-time.”  How cool is it that a woman wrote this first trail guide!

By the 1890s extensive trail building was sponsored by village improvement societies, and people who financed a trail could name it after whomever they chose.  We were thinking of that when we hiked Kurt Diederich’s Climb.  Hundreds of stone steps enable a 1,223-foot gross vertical gain to the top of Dorr Mountain.  Contemporary guidemaker Tom St. Germain calls this path, constructed in 1913, “historically important.”  The view from the top of Dorr, shown here, presents the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay.

From stone steps to iron rungs and ladders, innovative trail construction continued with Waldron Bates, who chaired the Roads and Paths Committee of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association from 1900 to 1909.  In addition to the Precipice Trail, one of my favorite places for using iron rung ladders is the Beehive Trail.  It not only takes you up to the glacial cirque called “The Bowl,” but has a wonderful view of Sand Beach. 

It is a great alternative when the Precipice is closed due to peregrine nesting.

My final acknowledgement today goes to the individuals who participated in trail building as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  In 1933 they had a camp on the west side of the island, today known as “the quietside,” and expanded the trail system there with such great trails as The Perpendicular, which also features hundreds of granite stairs!

This is my ninth summer of hiking on Mount Desert Island and every year increases my indebtedness to these trailmakers.  What do I think are the best trails in Acadia National Park?  Just click here.